Returns: payment on account

Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:30 am ar 11 Ionawr 2018.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

16 (1) TMA 1970 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 12AC (notice of enquiry), insert—

(1) Within one month of the passing of the Finance Act 2018 the Chancellor of the Exchequer must commission a review into the effects of introducing a power to allow HMRC to require payment on account for returns where an enquiry has been given under section 12AC(1) in respect of a return.

(2) The review under this section must consider—

(a) the administrative implications for HMRC,

(b) the impact on the taxation regime for partnerships, and

(c) the potential revenue effects of the change.

(3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must lay the report of this review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of the Finance Act 2018.””

This amendment requires the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the effects of introducing a power to require partnerships to make a payment on account in respect of a return when there has previously been a notice of an enquiry in connection with a return.

That schedule 6 be the Sixth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

A very good morning to you, Mr Owen. Once again, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. It is a great pleasure to be again in the company of the Opposition Front Benchers. On Monday we debated the customs Bill; on Tuesday we had the Finance (No. 2) Bill Committee here; on Wednesday we debated a statutory instrument, which was quite interesting; today we have the Bill again; and on Monday we will meet again to consider a statutory instrument. I am delighted that we are all here.

Before I address the Labour amendment, I will set out the general background and aims of the clause. Clause 18 and schedule 6 provide additional clarity about aspects of the taxation of partnerships. The changes and clarifications in the clause seek to address areas of uncertainty and complexity identified as problematic by stakeholders, and to reduce the scope for non-compliant taxpayers to avoid or delay paying their tax. The changes also facilitate the digital transformation of partner taxation using information in the partnership return.

Partnerships in the UK are required to file a partnership tax return in the UK once a year. This partnership return ensures that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has the information it needs so partners are correctly taxed on the profits and losses allocated to them. The return should summarise the profits and losses allocated to each partner, and HMRC uses it to audit the tax returns made by the partners.

The clause changes the partnership return in the following ways. First, it clarifies the treatment of partners who are in bare trust arrangements—trusts in which the beneficiary has the absolute right to income and capital from the trust—by confirming that beneficiaries of such trusts are treated as partners for tax purposes. It also clarifies the tax treatment for partners who are themselves partnerships, by providing a statutory definition of an indirect partner and setting out the basis period rules—the basis period being the period for which a partner pays tax each year—and how they apply to indirect partners.

To ensure all partners can complete their returns accurately, and to facilitate HMRC’s assurance work, a partnership that has indirect partners will be required either to report details of all the indirect partners or to submit the four possible profit calculations for UK resident and non-UK resident companies and individuals. The clause simplifies the rules for investment partnerships in the UK that already provide the information that HMRC requires under the common reporting standard or the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act; it reduces the reporting requirements for investment partnerships where the information has been reported under those other international obligations. Finally, it introduces a new process to allow disputes over the correct allocation of profit for tax purposes to be referred to the first-tier tax tribunal to be resolved. That will ensure that partners have a dedicated method for resolving disputes that does not rely on HMRC assurance processes.

On the amendment, I assure hon. Members that the Government have carefully considered the risk of non-compliance in drafting this legislation. In addition to the clarifications that the clause provides to address areas of uncertainty for partners, HMRC already has the power, subject to certain conditions, to require payment on account, in the form of an accelerated payment notice, from taxpayers who are involved in schemes disclosed under the disclosure of tax avoidance schemes rules or counteracted under the general anti-abuse rule.

HMRC has issued more than 79,000 accelerate payment notices since 2014, which have brought in more than £4 billion to the Exchequer. They have changed the economics of tax avoidance, and there is strong evidence that they have had significant impact on marketed avoidance, as the Office for Budget Responsibility noted in its September 2017 report. The Government do not consider it necessary or proportionate to extend such notices where there is no clear indication of avoidance and a partnership’s tax returns are simply the subject of an inquiry. It is therefore equally unnecessary to review the effect that such an extension would have.

I hope that reassures hon. Members that HMRC has sufficient powers to address non-compliance by partners, and that the amendment calling for a review on whether to extend those powers is neither necessary nor proportionate. The clause provides additional clarity about aspects of the taxation of partnerships; I therefore commend it to the Committee.

Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Shadow Minister (Treasury)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. I am grateful to the Minister for his kind comments, and look forward to future iterations of our debates, on other matters.

I want to give some context on the use of partnerships in the UK economy. Obviously, in some sectors they have proliferated, especially in forms such as limited liability partnerships. There is a broad question about unintended consequences of the proliferation of limited liability partnerships, particularly in accountancy, but I am well aware that that form of governance was created in 2001, so that growth can hardly be viewed as the result of the Government’s activity.

There are ways in which we can and should seek to ensure that partnerships are put on to as equal as possible a footing with other corporate forms. I appreciate that the package of measures on partnerships in the Bill is intended to do just that, as well as to simplify tax law on partnerships. However, our amendment would revive a measure that was initially floated by the Government, but appeared to have been rejected later: the notion of introducing, where one partner is absent, a payment-on-account system in relation to partnerships whose income is derived from trading or property, as described by the Minister.

The proposal would be similar to the system used for the self-employed, in which half the previous year’s tax bill is due in advance, and payable in July, to protect HMRC’s revenue. The proposal was No. 4 in a consultation document set out by HMRC. It received some negative responses in the consultation, I admit; however, some respondents were positive about its potential. We agree with them. It is important properly to incentivise the reporting of partners.

The Government maintain that the existence of penalty provisions for incomplete and late submission of partnership returns would be sufficiently dissuasive to prevent the non-reporting of partners to HMRC. They maintained that in the response to the consultation, and the Minister has done so again now. Our concern is that the penalty or fine could be lower than the tax due, and that could potentially open a loophole that we would rather was closed.

Our amendment would require the Government to rethink their position. However, I took on board the Minister’s comments just now, particularly about the applicability of the general anti-avoidance rule in this context. Because of that, we are willing not to push the amendment to a vote, but I hope that in the light of our discussion, the Minister will keep the matter under informal review in the Treasury.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

I thank the hon. Lady for those comments and for not pressing the amendment to a vote. I shall certainly keep the matters under review, as she urged, and would be happy of course to take directly any representations that she may want to make on them in future.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 18 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 6 agreed to.

Clause 19